This past week, I brought 23 students (and a fellow educator) to the East Coast Game Conference (ECGC). Doing so has become an annual event for my most advanced and/or most promising game design students. I generally take students who are currently in CTE Advanced Studies and Advanced Game Design as well as a handful of students in my Game Art & Design classes. Attending the conference gives students a chance to learn about topics that are relevant to the game industry from professionals as well asspeak with representatives from colleges/universities that offer degree programs in game design. Typically, ECGC is a major highlight of being part of the Game Design concentration at DSA for many of my students.
In the past, I have spoken about the importance of making real-world industry connections for students, so I will not bore my audience with a repeat of that information. If you want to learn more about my thoughts on this topic, check out these filtered posts. Instead, I want to tell you a little bit about the sessions that I specifically attended this year. Due to transportation conflicts, we could only stay at the conference a limited amount of time each day this year. While this meant missing several presentations, it did allows us to hear up to three talks per day and spend some time checking out booths manned by schools and companies. The talks that I attended included:
I want to focus on one of the talks I enjoyed enjoyed most this year which fell in the Art Track: Snyder's talk on digital painting. During his talk, Snyder explained how it is extremely important to examine different artistic styles, and not just those of a digital variety. He stressed how examining the way artists use a number of techniques like oils and opacity with paint on canvas can improve one's digital skills. Snyder pointed out that you can look at the work of video game artists and trace back their influences in a clear and concise manner all the way back to the classic artists who inspired those artists they were inspired by while learning their craft. But, he didn't just state the importance of looking at the classics, he also encouraged examining more modern art and how it pushes current conventions to its limits. He noted that by taking the time to become more knowledgeable of style, one also learns to pay closer attention to detail. This, in turn, helps them become better digital artists. A second thing he stressed was the importance of not overusing the undo option. To quote Bob Ross, "We don't make mistakes, just happy little accidents." Sometimes, it is the mistakes that help to make an artistic piece really shine or focus the viewer's attention to the part that really matters.
After making sure everyone understood why examining traditional art was important, he discussed the artistic tools he specifically uses when creating a digital work. His main tool set includes: Photoshop using a simple round brush with sensitivity turned on and an inexpensive Wacom Bamboo tablet! He then demonstrated how he uses classic paintings to improve his skills. He began by opening an image of as painting by Sargent in Photoshop where he noted the manner in which Sargent used oils to build up paint, forming his self portrait. He then began blocking out a copy of it using the digital tools in a space next to the painting. It was nowhere near polished but in less than five minutes, you could clearly see the features coming through. Snyder's talk will become the inspiration for a new assignment on digital painting techniques to use in class next year. But, I will have to flush that out more over the coming summer.
Over the past few weeks, dare I say two months, I have struggled with being a teacher. Between Winter and Spring Breaks is always a difficult time for many teachers and I am no exception. If you look at my blog regularly, you may have noticed the drop-off in posts. This is a large part of the reason for this lack of writing. But, the end is near and I am rejuvenated after last week's Spring Break! I am hoping the same goes for both my fellow educators and my students alike! So, it is time to return to regular writing habits.
Over the next two days, I will spend time with my advanced students (and a handful from GAD) at the East Coast Game Conference. While we cannot stay for the whole day because of bus issues, the students will get to hear six talks by professional game designers as well as meander around the expo hall to see displays and speak with both professionals in the industry and college/university representatives about their programs. Each student (and myself, of course) will be doing a blog post as a follow-up assignment to attending the conference. So, early next week, take a peek at the student blogs for the Advanced Game Design and Advanced Studies students if you are curious to see what they took away from this always important experience! And, come back here to see what I found interesting about this annual experience.
One of the highlights of being in the Game Art & Design concentration at Durham School of the Arts is attending the East Coast Game Conference (ECGC). This event, which is held annually in Raleigh, boasts the largest gathering of professional game designers on the east coast. The focus of this year's conference was virtual reality (VR). Students had an opportunity to listen to talks such as:
While all of us could attend talks in any of the sessions tracks including: narrative, art, design, audio, programming, serious games, Indie games, Unreal engine, and portfolio critiques, I spend most of my time listening to the speakers in the design track. Some of the topics that caught my attention were:
Baldwin's talk focused on making sure that team leads consider and touch on each of the following areas when doing critiques: sensitivity, clarity, inspiration, generosity, timeliness, honesty, openness, curiosity, time, follow-through, role identification and riffing. After the talk, I asked the students who attended this session with me how well I meet those requirements as defined in the session. Their response: around 70%. While this is pretty good as some of the items discussed mainly pertain to team leads at game companies, I know there are areas that I need to work on improving. With all that is expected of teachers, I know that I could put more time into critiques, both verbally and in print.
One way I would like to do improve my critiques is to plan on adding a day completely dedicated to critique every couple of weeks starting next school year. This will allow students to see and discuss each other's work as well as pick up tips from me on how to improve their skills. Also, such a day will give them a nice breather between assignments, allowing them to critically think about the work they are doing rather than just plowing through the assigned work. Learning critiquing skills is also an important life skill for students, so I may even have them take the lead on some of those days as well. I may try these techniques a couple of times this year as well, but as the we are coming up to exams and the year is ending before much longer, it really doesn't make sense to make any drastic changes to how we have been doing things all year.
I am a high school Career & Technical Education (CTE) teacher located in Durham, NC with a focus on game art and design. This blog provides a place for reflection on relevant classroom practices.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer or anyone else associated with Durham Public Schools.